tv View Change LINKTV January 22, 2016 2:30am-3:01am PST
>> "viewchange" is about people making real progress in tackling the world's toughest issues. can a story change the world? see for yourself. this is link tv's "viewchange," a new documentary series. >> we left as the sun reddened and dropped, and we directed ourselves to the desert. we had been told by the villagers that we were close to ethiopia, that all that was left was to cross the desert, that in a week's time we would find the end of sudan.
the dying began on the fifth day. >> it was an astonishing story of survival, and it took an extraordinary partnership to bring it to the world. valentino deng and his american friend dave eggers spent 4 years writing a book about valentino's childhood nightmare. >> i think we have a fascination for children who have lost everything and have then become separated from their parents, and we know that this happens during war, but this was something so unique, where tens of thousands ochildrenalking me or les ale across desert, 8 miles. >> together they've told a tale that captivated millions and even became the must-read book for a president. now they've begun a new journey, using a shared passion
for education to help rebuild a shattered society. >> here in the u.s., people take their education for granted, and he can say, "well, i walked 800 miles, uh, through a war-ravaged sudan just to-- to sit on--on the grass and-- and learn abcs in the dirt." >> wow, a human can do this? you know? you know, i'm happy, and i laugh about it, and say, "i'm proud to be a part of this society as well." >> [singing in native language] >> this is something you won't often see in the west, crowds of kids excited about going to school. >> [singing in native language]
>> in southern sudan, it's now every child's dream to get an education. not so long ago, children weren't marching to school, they were fleeing for their lives. valentino is determined to give these children the chance his generation never had. >> i want something best for my country. i want something better for my people. i want something that will bring them peace. >> heas a you cattle rder, rhaps 8 9 yearsld, when the war swept into his village inhe early980s. for decades there had been tensions between these mainly christian africans of southern sudan and the muslim arabs of the north. after the southerners rebelled, the north attacked their villages. first, they used helicopter gunships.
>> now, there were 5 or more of these machines, great black crickets in every direction. adults were running from the machines, falling, screaming. [gunshots] >> then came the men on horseback. >> from our hiding place we watched the storm overtake the town. all was dust. i heard the crack of gunfire behind us. horses burst through the grass to the right and left. [machine-gun fire] >> thousands of children fled into the bush, including many children like valentino who became separated from their families. the children banded together to try to escape the fighting. >> we were walking to ethiopia, but we were not safe. there would be the sudan armed forces who would spot any moving target in southern sudan
and drop bombs at them. so we would see dead bodies everywhere. everyone was looking for safer pce. and whatever it tooks, you kw, walking at day and nig, we--wmade it. >> groups of orphans as young as 3 walked for months across the desert to reach ethiopia. >> within days, there were thousands of boys and soon after the boys arrived, there were adults and families and babies, and the land was crowded with sudanese. a city of refugees rose up within weeks. it is something to see. people simply sitting, surrounded by rebels and ethiopian soldiers, waiting to be fed. >> then, when ethiopia expelled them, they had to march all over again to kenya, as the civil war
raged around them. >> i turned around, and i could see the soldiers kneeling in the grass of the riverbank, shooting at us as we crossed. a scream came from very close. i turned to see a boy in the jaws of a crocodile. the river bloomed red, and the boy's face disappeared. >> they actually were firing on you? >> yes. >> as you were trying to cross the river to escape? >> yes. >> and you saw people dying around you? >> of course. >> and almost died yourself? >> yeah. i even saw a woman who was killed, a young woman who was killed, and her small daughter, you know, was struggling to breast-feed on her mother who had just been killed. and crying. >> for 13 years the survivors grew up as unaccompanied minors in refugee camps, where they became known as "the lost boys."
eventually, valentino moved to the united states, determined to tell the world the story of what they'd been through. in 2003, he began collaborating with dave eggers, a best-selling author who's own memoire had been shortlisted for the pulitzer prize. eggers agreed that the money from any book sales would go towards sudan. >> the story of the lost boys and valentino's story in particular just hadn't been told. this is a--a war that, you know, claimed over 2 million lives, and we knew almost nothing about it. >> the result was "what is the what," a fictionalized account of valentino's life that became a publishing sensation. >> we thought we would be telling a story about--about history, about something that had happened and--and we were-- u know, ere was ace, uh, in south sudan and a peace agreement on its way,
and, uh, you know, in the first handful of months that we were working together, that's when darfur blew up, and we thought, "well, this could never happen again," and it happened precisely the same way, and so-- then the sense of urgency was sort of doubled, um, because that same government was oppressing another region of the country, and we thought, if people really understand the underpinnings and the, uh-- of the war, both conflicts are so similar. >> the book was not only a best-seller, it captivated america's elite. valentino deng found himself feted by past and present u.s. presidents and embraced by hollywood activists, like anlina jol. >> i came popar in thu.s. i appreciated it, but i didn't do it to be a celebrity, i--it was a call to action, and that's how i looked at it always.
>> he's now using the proceeds of the book to help his homeland rebuild. a peace deal in 2005 allowed him to join hundreds of other lost boys returning to southern sudan. though the boys are now all grown men. >> i'm growing taller. >> so he was a boy, was he? >> yeah, he was. >> ty'd come back to a land that was nearly razed to the ground in 20 years of fighting. >> after the war, so much, uh, infrastructure--the little infrastructure that there was
was completely gone. the village has been burned and burned over for many years. >> but since his first visit home in 2003, the towns have started to rise from the ashes. >> yes, it has changed much. last year there was no road like this. and, um, you see people going to school. all schools were closed during the war. so a lot of change is--is taking place. >> it's all coming back to life. >> yep. >> valentino was able to reconnect with the family he hadn't seen in 16 years. against all odds, his parents had survived. >> they look emaciated, they look sick, they needed a lot. i know i have a lot to offer them. but i was excited to come back and find them alive.
>> deng's dream was to build a new high school in his village of marial bai, a school where the next generation could learn to help their new country. he's already gone most of the way to realize it. >> we have come, and, luckily, it didn't rained. everything would be wet right now. >> this is amazing, what you've done. so you've built all this in just a year? >> yep. >> everything we see here? >> yeah, everything we see here, except that building, was built in less than a year. >> that's amazing. >> with the money from the book, he bought a truck, transported building materials all the way from uganda, and hired the villagers to build it in record time. when dave eggers visited, he was stunned by how fast it had happened in such a remote
and hard place. >> his actions are speaking louder than anything else. there's a lot of people that talk about rebuilding south sudan and how to do it, and there's a lot of plans being drawn up and--uh, but in an incredibly short amount of time, he just did it. >> [singing in tive lanage] >> it's the only proper high school in the region. there are now 260 students, including 22 women andirls. >> [singing in native langua] >> the plan is to eventually have 800 students with as many girls as boys. >> [singing in native language] [thunder roaring] >> despite all they've been through, people here are quick to see blessings. even torrential rain is welcomed as a gift from god.
that mes this hool day doublylessed. >> please, please. put god ahead of you. >> valentino deng has invited abraham nial, another lost boy who's just been named the new bishop. >> when we left home in the eighties, many of us died. some were eaten by wild animals, some drowned in the rivers. but god keep some of us alive to be witness of what took place in sudan. >> he and valentino are pushing a message of non-violence. >> we had a goal, that if we ca survive and go tochool, we need to come back and change life in sudan. alentinoave done it. that's why you people are here. we fought for more than 50 years, but nothing was accomplished through the gun. the things are going to change through education. >> madame [indistinct] from [indistinct]. >> it's no easy task after two decades of war.
even the teachers here have little formal education. so valentino has appealed for teachers from the other side of the world to help teach them. >> where are you from? >> from new york. >> where in new york? >> uh, manhattan. >> they're among dozens who paid their own way to come as volunteers. >> where in california? >> san francisco. >> despite giving up his retirement for this, don hesse says he gets just as muchut of the experience as those he's helping. >> this is where i'd rather be than anywhere else, except, possibly, the baseball stadium, but some things you've got to give up, and that's what i gave up to come here. and i miss my children very much, but-- but i could not be--this-- this is, you know--if i could pick a place i would be, this is where it would be. it's wonderful. >> i'm "surprise." >> with a "d." >> i am surprised. >> i know it looks like the past tense, right? >> during breaks, the students mob the volunteers, hungry for the learning
the war denied them. >> it looks like it, and you are smart-- >> however, i can tell you. >> you are smart to think it is the past tense, because you see "ed," it must be the past. so that's good. >> good. >> but unfortunately, it's not. >> [laughs] >> it is-- it is an adjective. you say, "i am surprised that you are such a good student." >> in new york, we have 10 million people. >> the presence of foreigners here is also an important symbol for the sudanese, who feel that, for decades, they've been forgotten by the outside world. >> what do you think? do you like to be here with us, or would you like to go...? >> ah, i love it here, yes, but i have to go back to work. >> [laughs] >> i've been here for a while, you know, i have to go back, uh. >> will you come back next year? >> i hope so, hope. the students here are incredibly eager, um, especially this being the first secondary school in the region. it's a long--it's a long ways away, so-- you know, there's thousands and thousands of applicants to get into the school who have taken the test, and so they were the few that were chosen, so they're going to be
some of the most highly educated people in southern sudan. and so i think they're starting to realize that, you know, there's a bigger purpose for them beyond, you know, just being a high school graduate. they are going to be the future of the new untry. >> last class we were working on spelling. spelling rules. >> in these classrooms, there's no fidgeting at the back of the class, no yearning for the school bell. >> we're talking about nouns. >> in australia, the students would be in their early teens. here most are in their twenties, catching up on the lost years. >> how do i spell that? >> some of them have come out of 5, 6 years in the army and are now settling down into high school. excellent, so i'm not going to worry about that one. you get people w've had a very difficult past. you get some young boys, and you see the joy in the face and the laughter and they're-- and they're lighting up. you get some of the older students, and their seriousness is--is tinged
by some amount of sadness. >> the problem in southern sudan is not any lack of enthusiasm, 'sust the ck of reurces. even anight, ty huddleound the one light powered by the school's generator. and the most determined of all are the girls. >> ...what resources the country had. >> in southern sudan, only one girl in 10 finishes primary school, one in 100 gets through high school. >> the worst thing you can say about these kids is that they'll steal textbooks so they can stay up late at night and study under the light outside the shower. um, that's--that's the worst thing you can say about them, is they want to learn more. >> every day more people are returning to southern sudan, despite the poverty that awaits them.
in a fertile region, rich in oil, one in four people are still dependent on food aid. yet there's a sense of hope here, even excitement, of building a new country. since the peace deal was signed 6 years ago, there have been no more attacks from the islamist government in khartoum. for the first time in decades, southern sudan is feeling free. but there's a dark cloud hanging over all of this. in january, the south is due to hold a referendum on independence. it was guaranteed under the peace deal, but the question is, will khartoum honor the agreement? would it really let the south, with all its oil fields, go? or are the people here just months from another war?
>> you know, look, there's angelo. >> okay, okay. >> that's angelo. >> the possibility of more fighting worries valentino deng's supporters. the school is just a short drive from the northern border, near what could be the front line. >> khartoum has never allowed anything like this to happen and none of their behavior would predict that they would allow this to happen peacefully. so there's a lot of fear, and a lot of people say, "how can you build a secondary school when there might be war a year from now?" but again, valentino has to always err on the side of hope and--and moving forward. um, so that's the greatest challenge, is that, will this school be used as a barracks a year from now? >> so are you optimistic or--or pessimistic? >> i am optimistic. >> after all the bad things you've seen and been through? >> well, the bad things i've seenappened r a reas.
there is war, there was chaos, there was the killing, there was--all that had to happen because we had allowed our country to get, uh, at war with itself. what, then, would you expect? and so all that had to happen. but now the sudanese have come back again, sat on a round table, and negotiated a comprehensive peace agreement that i trust they must implement to its fullest. >> hmm. if fighting did come again, would you leave sudan again? >> i don't know. >> something you think about? >> i don't think about it. you know, preventive is better than cure. >> there's a price he pays for his passion for the school. once again, he's separated from his family,
his wife and baby son living in kenya until he can make a proper home for them in sudan, the sort of home valentino didn't have. >> and we will keep him safe, we will protect him in the best way we can. we'll make sure he doesn't go through all this pain. >> he sees them rarely, dividing his time between marial bai and the u.s., where he continues to raise money for his foundation. today, it's time to farewell the students until he comes back next term. >> another issue i would like to acknowledge here is that i'm really very proud of you, and i want to thank you very much for our event. >> he's, you know--became one of my close friend and he's also just the best man i've ever known. and what he's been able to accomplish through
his foundation, and, um-- and continued to do,t's- just continues to sort of amaze me a everybody who knows him. >> when you look around at what's been achieved so far, after all you've been through, what are your feelings? >> i'm very happy, i'm very proud of it. i like seeing them crack jokes and laughing and playing together with their sisters. it's amazing. and for me, i think i'm doing exactly what i need to do with my life, to be here, to see some people smiling and to know that i've given them that smile. that's what matters to me.
[loud engine running] >> sir, sorry to bother you, here, um, are you aware, in the city of new york, you can't have your engine idling in your truck for more than 3 minutes? >> ah, man, come on, man. you're a pain in the ass, man. >> i'd like to have you shut your engine off. you can't have it on for more than 3 minutes in the city of new york, and i'm looking out for the better environment for our neighborhood. >> man, come on, man.